Syria: Rebels Also Hit Regime Troops with Gas

Syria's UN ambassador demands that chemical experts probe three attacks in which soldiers "inhaled poisonous gas".

Elad Benari ,

Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
AFP photo

Syria is claiming that the rebels used chemical weapons against regime troops and is asking the United Nations to order chemical experts in Damascus to investigate three such attacks, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

According to Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Syrian troops "inhaled poisonous gas" in the three rebel attacks.

Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said he has written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask that a team of inspectors already in Syria also "investigate three heinous incidents that took place in the countryside of Damascus on (August) 22nd, 24th and 25th where members of the Syrian army inhaled poisonous gas."

The UN investigators are due to leave Syria this weekend and UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that the world body had not asked the Syrian government for an extension to the 14-day visit.

"The team has the ability to investigate other incidents as needed," Haq said, adding that the initial three incidents they were due to examine when they arrived in Syria would be investigated "in due course."

The United Nations has received at least 14 reports of possible chemical weapons use in Syria. After months of diplomatic wrangling, a team of experts, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Syria on August 18.

The UN team was initially going to look into three incidents, but its priority became investigating an alleged gas attack in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus last week, which activists say killed hundreds of civilians.

Ja'afari's request to Ban on Wednesday came as the five permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council - Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France - met to discuss a British draft resolution that would condemn Assad's government for carrying out the attack last week.

The draft resolution would authorize "all necessary force" to protect civilians from chemical weapons - giving approval for military action in Syria by western powers.

The meeting of the five Security Council members lasted about an hour and all of the envoys declined to comment afterward. Moscow said earlier that Britain was "premature" in seeking a resolution to protect Syrian civilians.

Russia, Syria's main arms supplier, as well as China, have already vetoed three resolutions condemning Assad.

Ja’afari also accused the U.S., UK and France of being “part of the problem,” rather than “a solution to the crisis.” These Western states are providing “armed terrorists groups” in Syria with weapons and all kinds of logistical support, he claimed, according to Russia Today.

Meanwhile, as President Obama is contemplating an attack on Syria that would send a “warning” to Assad but not topple his regime, the United States and Britain have come under pressure to delay military intervention in Syria, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urging both countries to hold fire.

Speaking at a press conference at The Hague, Ban called to give UN inspectors more time to examine the scene of the chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week.

He said that the inspectors needs at least four days to conduct tests, and further time to finish analyzing the results. Once that is done, the matter should be taken to the UN Security Council, he added.

Obama told PBS on Wednesday that he had not yet decided on military action in Syria.

“I’ve not made a decision. I have gotten options from our military, had extensive discussions with my national security team,” he said, adding he has "no interest" in "any kind of open-ended conflict" in the civil war torn country.